Zakaat is a pillar of Islam. It is not a tax but an Ibaadat (act of worship).
Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) has said, ‘Protect your wealth with Zakaat and treat your sick ones with charity and counter the waves of calamity with Du’aa and humility.’ Stern warnings have been given in the Ahaadith for withholding and nonpayment of Zakaat. It is reported by Barida (Radhiallaahu Anhu) that Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) said, ‘No community withholds Zakaat but Allah Ta’ala will inflict upon them famine.’
Hereunder are a few guidelines and Masaail which will assist in preparing one for payment of Zakaat:
1. Zakaat is Fardh (compulsory) on a Muslim male or female who is mature (Baaligh) and sane. He/she must also be the owner of Nisaab. Nisaab is the minimum amount of wealth which makes a person liable for Zakaat. This amount changes daily.
2. If one is the owner of Nisaab after one lunar year, then Zakaat will be Fardh upon him. The Zakaat should be paid annually on the Islamic date of a lunar year.The day an individual becomes owner of Zakātable wealth (gold, silver, cash, or trading merchandise) equivalent to the amount of Nisāb (612.36 grams of silver or its value in cash) is termed as his Zakāh day. In other words, annually all Zakātable wealth in his ownership on that day must be calculated for Zakāh.
If one does not remember when he first became owner of this amount i.e. 612.36 grams of silver or its value, he must apply his discretion and arrive at a conclusion. If he is unable to remember even after applying his discretion, he must stipulate any day as his Zakāh day based on the lunar calendar. Thereafter, on a yearly basis he must calculate all Zakātable wealth in his ownership on that day. 
3. After Zakaat becomes Fardh (one lunar has passed), Zakaat must be paid as soon as possible. Procrastination is the trick of Shaytaan and Zakaat will continuously be adding up and we will be responsible.
4. Niyyat (intention) must be made before giving Zakaat. Zakaat can be paid in cash or kind.
5. The following items are exempted from Zakaat. A) Personal belongings, e.g. home, clothes, car, household utensils, furniture, etc.; b) Fixtures and fittings, e.g. Computers, etc.; c) Imitation jewellery, diamonds, precious stones, etc.
6. Debts must be deducted when calculating Zakaat. Zakaat is paid on the balance only.
7. Cash on loan – monies loaned must also be taken into account when working our Zakaat.
8. Women who are using gold and silver jewellery must also pay Zakaat on these items provided that it is equivalent to Nisaab.
9. All Zakaat monies should preferably be paid by oneself. However, it is important to note that permission must be taken before paying Zakaat on behalf of one’s wife.
10. The correct recipients of Zakaat must be sought. Give your Zakaat only after you are completely satisfied.
11. If one wishes to give his Zakaat to any organization, then one must make intention of Zakaat when giving the money to his representative.
12. Kindly consult your local Ulama when completing your Zakaat form.
13. Businessmen, traders, etc. must consult their Ulama for clarification of Masaail pertaining to stock in trade, shares, etc.
Jamiatul Ulama KZN